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Palos Hills man is thankful to be thriving at 100

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

edwin and guests photo 3-9

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Edwin Van Syckle, of Palos Hills, recently celebrated his 100th birthday

Edwin Van Syckle, of Palos Hills, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, is all smiles with his aide Peggy Armstrong, and Allison Aidinovich, owner of the Right at Home healthcare agency in Orland Park.

Edwin Van Syckle of Palos Hills, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday with family, credits God for his longevity and good fortune.

“Without God, I couldn’t do anything,” said the centenarian, who never misses Sunday services at Trinity Lutheran Church in Burr Ridge.

“I have to be thankful to God. He brought me to where I am. He kept me around longer than I belong,” he said, giving one of many wry remarks tossed out during a recent interview in his home, surrounded by party balloons.

Van Syckle turned 100 on Feb. 24, and celebrated with his family and friends on the following Sunday. A native of Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, the retired steel salesman still lives in the Cour Madeline home he bought with his late wife, Winifred, in 1965. They lived in Palos Park before moving to Palos Hills. He recalls watching Moraine Valley Community College, which opened in 1967, getting its start with one Quonset hut.

His wife died 10 years ago.

“I miss her very much,” he said.

His son, Raymond, lives in Palos Heights, and his daughter, Norma Jean, lives in Columbus, Ohio. She and other family members, including twin great-granddaughters, came in for the party. His other son, Jeff, who lived in Atlanta, died of leukemia at age 70.

He is able to live independently with help from home healthcare aides who spend a few hours with him each day, making meals and taking care of whatever needs he has.

“He is a joy and a great person to be around. We have some great conversations and I’ve learned a lot from him,” said Peggy Armstrong, an aide from Right at Home, an agency based in Orland Park that provides in-home care. She comes in the evenings to make his dinner and help him around the house, while someone else comes in the mornings.

His main goal on Sunday mornings is getting dressed and ready when a volunteer from his church picks him up for services.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in my lifetime. Much of it good, some bad,” said Van Syckle.

“I remember women driving electric cars, before gas-powered cars. They would just pull a lever and off it would go,” he said.

Still an avid follower of current affairs, Van Syckle said he likes to watch cable news programs, and made sure he got out to vote in November.

“I didn’t get an absentee ballot. My aide took me to the polling place,” he said.

He remembers as far back as the presidency of William G. Harding, another Ohio native, who was president from 1921 until his death in 1923.

When asked what he thought about Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was quick to respond. “I never voted for him. I was a Republican. I never voted for a Democrat,” said Van Syckle.

“One of my favorite memories was watching the Cleveland Indians win the World Series in 1948. I was at a lot of those games. I also saw the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the New York Yankees,” said Van Syckle. “I was sorry to see the Indians lose to the Chicago Cubs last year, but it was good for the Cubs fans,” he said magnanimously.

Van Sycke said that as a steel salesman, a job he retired from in 1991, he sold spools of wire to companies such as Mead to make spiral notebooks.

“All those manufacturing jobs went to China. But they might be coming back,” he said. His father also worked in the steel industry, and is credited with inventing a tool that allowed pieces of steel to be scraped up from the holds of ships.

“Before inventing that, he had to shovel it himself,” he said.

Mr. Van Syckle has a desktop computer, which he said he used to check the stock market, another field he was involved in during his long career. That is just one indication that he has not let technology pass him by since retiring. Another is the smart phone in his shirt pocket.

“I don’t hear well on the phone any more. But I can send texts to my daughter and keep in touch with her that way,” he said.

Aside from good genes and God, Van Syckle offered no secret formula for reaching the 100 mark.

“I come from a family of long-livers,” he said, noting that his mother lived to 85, and his father to 93. His brother and sister also lived into their 90s.

The only health complaint he seems to have, aside from walking slowly, is colorblindness. That prevented him from serving in World War II.

“I wanted to go into the Air Force, but I wasn’t accepted because I couldn’t pass the colorblind test. Then they came looking for me to join after the war was over, but it was too late,” he said.

He said his favorite food when he went to restaurants on business trips was “prime rib and shrimp cocktail. I really used to enjoy that.”

He has simple tastes these days, things like grilled cheese sandwiches and soup prepared by his aides, complete with ice cream for dessert. Sometimes his aides bring him Nachos Bel Grande from Taco Bell, one of his current favorite foods.

Van Syckle is not a drinker, either.

“I limit myself to have one drink a year now, a vodka martini, usually around Christmastime. Any more than that, and I would be afraid I couldn’t get from here to there,” he joked, motioning to the couch 10 feet from his chair.

Allison Aidinovich, owner of the Right at Home agency in Orland Park, which provides the weekend aides, stopped in to wish an Syckle a happy birthday. Her company was the recipient of 2017 Provider of Choice, Employer of Choice, and Best in Home Care awards from Home Care Pulse, a national ratings agency that grades companies using opinions from clients and employees.

She said that because most of Van Syckle’s family is out-of-state, they make use of the “Family Room’ online service her company provides.

“It is very helpful. Everything we do for the client is recorded, including when we weigh them and take their blood pressure. That way, they can make sure their family member is being cared for and stay in touch with us.”